The Nets plan to play at Christmas; NBA, union assessment protocols

NEW YORK (AP) – The Brooklyn Nets have enough players to fly to Los Angeles and play their Christmas clash against the Lakers, though Kevin Durant may not be among them.

But the news got worse for many other teams in the league on Thursday, including Minnesota, which placed Karl-Anthony Towns – who previously revealed COVID-19 caused the deaths of seven of his relatives, including his mother – on the list of health and safety protocols. Cities also ran out of time last season due to a positive test.

“I can’t take a… break,” Towns wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, someone with first-hand knowledge of the matter said the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are continuing their discussions about whether to change current protocols regarding return to play after a positive test – something that has usually took 10 days or more in most cases. . The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because nothing had been finalized.

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said Thursday James Harden cleared the protocols, but said the Nets didn’t expect any of their players still in the protocols to come out in time for the game. . That would include Durant, the NBA’s top scorer.

Brooklyn planning to play on Saturday was a positive sign, as was Chicago coach Billy Donovan announcing after practice Thursday that the Bulls had no players left on the protocol list. The Bulls had up to 10 on that list last week, when the league postponed two of their games as a result.

But the numbers continued to rise in the league, with 101 players in protocols Thursday night. The Timberwolves now have seven in protocols.

“He’s in the best frame of mind he can get,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said of Towns. “It’s unfortunate, of course. It also happened right before the holidays, so it will affect the next two days for everyone around him. But he was in the best possible state of mind.

Another big name added to the protocol list on Thursday was Bradley Beal of Washington. Beal, who missed the opportunity to compete in the Olympics last year after testing positive, said before this season he was not vaccinated.

Other people remaining on the list included Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Trae Young. All three were to be part of the NBA’s five-game Christmas schedule.

And Detroit said Thursday it added four players to the protocols, where they joined rookie Cade Cunningham, the team’s top scorer.

The Nets saw their last three scheduled games postponed – among the NBA’s nine postponements to date – after a coronavirus outbreak left them 10 players in protocols, a league record. Nash said Harden, Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter also approved the protocols, although rookies Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards and David Duke Jr. have since entered.

Teams need a minimum of eight players to start a game. Nash said the Nets have more than enough.

But it’s unclear if they’ll have another practice before Saturday’s game. Nash said it wasn’t until the last day that healthy players were able to return for individual training.

“It’s tricky,” Nash said. “We haven’t been able to do much, but we are doing what we can and will continue to adapt as the rules and mandates come into effect.”

It is important to note that players can move in and out of the list of health and safety protocols quickly in some cases, some teams do not post updated numbers except when required by league rule, and all world on the list has not tested positive for COVID-19.

Also important: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this week in an interview with ESPN that players who tested positive who received booster shots tend to have very mild symptoms at worst. The league says 97% of players are fully vaccinated; the NBPA says 65% is being increased, and it is a top priority for the union to get that number much higher.

Durant was placed in protocols last Saturday with Kyrie Irving, a day after the Nets said they were bringing the unvaccinated point guard back to play in road games. There is still time for Irving to send back two negative tests 24 hours apart to be cleared, although Nash said the Nets did not expect it.

With the Lakers’ Anthony Davis already sidelined with a sprained left knee, Durant’s absence would remove another superstar from what was to be one of the regular season’s flagship games when scheduled.

The Nets have the best record in the Eastern Conference, but Nash said it would be difficult to pick up where they left off after not playing for a week.

“We are one of the few teams in this league to have taken a break, so getting back to the rhythm of the league is a difficult task,” he said. “But we have to approach it with enthusiasm and opportunity, and also not put too much pressure on ourselves to come back.”

With Durant, starters LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre ‘Bembry remain in the protocols, along with Bruce Brown, James Johnson and rookie Day’Ron Sharpe. Nash said all players experienced nothing more than mild symptoms.

Teams are allowed to recruit players to replace those who have been screened out with positive tests, and at least 40 such contracts – which will not count towards a team’s salary cap or tax figures luxury – have been executed over the past few days. Some of the players are relatively unknown or new to the league; others, like Joe Johnson of Boston, Lance Stephenson of Atlanta and Isaiah Thomas of the Lakers, have been largely out of the league for years. Johnson, 40, played on Wednesday, his first NBA game since 2018. Stephenson also made his Hawks debut on Wednesday, his first NBA game since 2019.

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AP Basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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